Gyrocompas, c 1940.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This gyrocompas was employed to guide the flight path of World War II V2 rockets. The gyrocompas directed the rocket during the powered section of its flight, after which the rocket flew ballistically. Inside the compas is a spinning gyroscope which keeps a constant orientation. The gyroscope had been invented 30 years earlier by the American engineer Elmer Sperry. It offered aircraft the posibility of automatic balance and stabilisation during flight. The V2 rocket was invented by the German scientist Wernher von Braun (1912-1977) and used against targets in Britain in 1944-1945. After the war von Braun was taken to the United States where his expertise in rocketry was used to develop ballistic misiles as well as being vital to the space programme.